Things here have been busy the past few weeks. Until last week, I would have said mostly in a good way, work-wise at least, and despite Covid-19. (For happy news only, please skip the next two paragraphs.)

However, there’s been a significant number of cases of Covid now at my sons’ high school, where each of their ‘bubbles’ are 300+ pupils – in contrast to the voluntary self-isolation that I and my family had chosen to maintain after lockdown. Although age is on my side, my type one diabetes makes me vulnerable, so I feel especially frustrated with the lack of safeguarding – putting staff, pupils and their families at risk through the schools. Meanwhile, both of my sons are in big exam years – with all the current gaps/disruption in teaching and uncertainty about exams/assessments/university hanging over them…

It’s definitely true that a crisis can bring out both the best in people but also highlight the worst aspects of society. Already underfunded and underpaid even before the extra pressure and workload from Covid-19, school staff, like those in the NHS, continue to cope and deal with things on the frontline, working long hours, with nowhere near enough support, equipment, facilities…

If you’ve come to my blog though, it’s unlikely you’ve come to hear about this, so I am going to set this aside as much as I can for the rest of this post – just know that I’m in total solidarity with anyone feeling a similar way right now!

On a personal level, I’m extremely grateful that my family and friends are still safe and well at the moment. In both my personal life and work-wise, I’m trying to focus even more than usual on the positive, as a distraction to the bad, because there doesn’t feel much else I can do right now and also because these are the things that life is really about.

My big gratitude and thanks therefore to all the people involved in making the following projects, competitions and publications possible – and to all out there fighting for the arts and literature right now, as well as all those still facing Covid-19 on the front-line.

COMPETITIONS

I’m delighted that my poetry manuscript Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is one of five shortlisted for the Chaffinch Press CP Aware Award Prize for Poetry 2021. The prize is awarded to a poet whose submitted collection is socially engaged and highlights cultural and/or political injustice towards individuals, gender groups, ethnic minorities, communities or institutions. Both the manuscript and this shortlisting mean a lot to me, as the poems tackle aspects of life with a hidden disability, as well as elements of sexism, ageism, and generally trying to find a meaningful sense of self and living life with purpose. So, please keep your fingers crossed for me for the next stage.

My environmentally themed, politically-edged, experimental/vispo-influenced pamphlet Rain Falling Fast As Light was longlisted for the Paper Swans Press Pamphlet Prize 2020.

Too Fast (poem) was shortlisted for the Parkinson’s Art International Poetry Competition 2020.

The Last Night Shift (flash) was shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre #FlashFiction101 September prompt-themed competition.

Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition Shortlisting

I’m absolutely delighted that Andrew Curtis’s poetryfilm version of one of my poems, A Plague On All Our Houses, is one of 38 poetry-films (from 14 countries) shortlisted for the 2020 Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition. The shortlist was chosen from 288 entries received from 49 countries. The shortlisted films will be streamed online on Sunday, 29 November 2020, over two screenings at Ó Bhéal’s 8th Winter Warmer Poetry festival, via Vimeo Livestream. Access to the entire festival will be free to the public and A Plague On All Our Houses is scheduled for the 2pm screening.

MORE POETRYFILM

I’m delighted to have my first festival screening as a poetry filmmaker! The news that one of my poetryfilms is to be included in the 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia this October is especially amazing as I had originally been due to talk about and share one of my other poetryfilms this autumn at the Swindon Big Poetry Weekend festival, unfortunately postponed because of Covid-19.

The 2020 International Poetryfilm Festival of Thuringia is an online festival from 22-24 October 2020 and my film Women Not To Be has been selected to be part of the Women in Resistance program. Women in Resistance demonstrates the central role of women’s narratives and feminism in today’s poetry film and video poetry. Besides the online screenings, there will also be a program of live streams during the festival. Women in Resistance will stream on November 2, at 6 pm (CET) and all of the movies will be available for three weeks, from October 22 to November 12, on the festival website www.poetryfilmtage.de within a password-protected area to make sure that all festival guests have sufficient time to watch individual programs and films. The ticket for entering the site costs 10 Euro and can be purchased from September 15 to November 12.

MOSAIC MODERN WORCESTERSHIRE COMMISSION

My Mosaic Modern Worcestershire for Worcester Art Gallery’s From the Art Gallery with Love x project is now live on the Museums Worcestershire website. This includes A Modern Mosaic of Worcestershire (using photographs for the tiles), a hypertext poem and a poetryfilm. All three parts of the project are inspired by Worcester City Art Gallery’s painting A Prospect of Worcester from the East (c. 1750 and attributed to John Harris the Younger). The work was produced for Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum (part of Museums Worcestershire) as the commissioner for the “From The Art Gallery With Love x” project, kindly funded by Arts Council England.

READING AT CHELTENHAM LITERATURE FESTIVAL

I was delighted to be the judge for Gloucestershire Writers’ Network poetry competition 2020 with a theme of ‘My World’ and had a delightful start to August immersing myself in the entries. The results can be found on the GWN website here.

The prize winners’ event was at Cheltenham Literature Festival at the start of the month. Although I wasn’t able to be there in person, I was delighted to hear the winning poems through the festival’s online Screen on the Green, and to do a reading of some my own poems.

My big congratulations to the winning poets and fiction writers, and to everyone who entered in a year where Covid-19 has had a massive effect on us all. I’m very much looking forward now to the winners’ anthology. (And very delighted too to have been asked to contribute a couple of poems, The Rain’s Tale and At Night myself.) The My World — Gloucestershire Writers’ Network Competition Anthology 2020 is available from Black Pear Press here.

PUBLICATIONS

Making > Room an article and photo about my hypertext poetry project > Room published in The Poetry Society’s Poetry News Autumn 2020.


 

My review of Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl (Bloodaxe, 2020) published on The High Winndow.

Twist (poem) published in 14 magazine Series 2, Issue 1 in October 2020.

That first hunt (poem) published in The High Wolds Poetry Collection 2020 in October 2020.

The Darkest Well (poem) published in Deep Time: Volume 2 (Black Bough Poetry) in October 2020.

EXTRA INSPIRATION & THANKS

I’ve found it harder than usual to feel motivated to write the past six months, unless I have a work deadline or commission to focus me. However, Ledbury Poetry Festival’s free Segments (monthly/4weekly) zoom workshops run by Sara-Jane Arbury have been amazingly inspirational – finally getting me back into a zone this autumn where I’m not only writing but really enjoying that writing. I’m extraordinarily thankful to have found these and signed up for them. What’s more the prompts for past sessions are also available online – though, if you can, I’d still recommend signing up for the live Zoom sessions to really get the most out of them! You can find more about them here.

AND OTHER BAD NEWS…

So I’m lucky to have some rays of writing light to take my mind off Covid-19. Most writers and artists that I know have lost work because of the pandemic, though this, of course, pales besides those who have been ill or lost loved ones to the virus. I am fortunate to have kept safe, so far.

This time last year, I was excited after hearing that I’d got a month’s paid residency at The International Writers’ and Translators’s House in Ventspils, Latvia. I would have been travelling out there for four weeks of pure research, writing, literary immersion this December. I wasn’t surprised, given the global situation, to hear that this won’t now be happening. To be honest, even if it had been possible on the Latvian end, I don’t think that I would have felt safe going out right now, given the pandemic and my type one diabetes. But the fact that this wasn’t unexpected doesn’t make it any the less disappointing. Hopefully, the residency is postponed rather than cancelled, but until exactly when is, obviously, very much up in the air. And, of course, many other writers will have been similarly affected over the past six months and winter months to come.

And here’s hoping that’s the worst of the bad news over the coming months.

Love and strength to all, and creativity and inspiration vibes to my writing and artist friends.